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The Secret Teachings of Jesus: Four Gnostic Gospels Paperback – May 12, 1986


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Later Printing edition (May 12, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394744330
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394744339
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #752,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

In December 1945, two Egyptian fellahin, digging for natural fertilizer in the Nile River valley unearthed a sealed storage jar. The jar proved to hold treasure of an unexpected sort: a collection of some fifty-two ancient manuscripts, most of which reflect the teachings of a mystical religious movement we call Gnosticism (from the Greek word gnosis, "knowledge"). The texts are also, with few exceptions, Christian documents, and thus they provide us with valuable new information about the character of the early church, and about the Gnostic Christians within the church.

In this volume, Marvin W. Meyer has produced a new English translation for general readers of four of the most important and revealing of these early Christian texts -- the Secret Book of James, the Gospel of Thomas, the Book of Thong, and the Secret Book of John.

More About the Author

Marvin Meyer is one of the foremost scholars on gnosticism, the Nag Hammadi library, and texts about Jesus outside the New Testament.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

204 of 210 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have not actually read Meyer's work cover to cover, yet I have read exerpts and passages for research. I actually bought the complete Nag Hammadi works, for this is a massive collection of early gnostic material. I actually work in classical studies, but I find this Near Eastern religious activity of the 1st century BC to 3rd century AD quite fascinating. It has been suggested by other reviews on this site that the gnostic scriptures are mindless nonsense and they do not carry the weight of the traditional gospels. I suppose they would not like to hear that the gospel of John was actually a gnostic gospel. It was adopted by orthodoxy and then edited to fit its political/theological agenda. Anyone able to read Greek can see that heavy editing took place in the text of John. True Christians should not be daunted by this fact, for the original idea of Christianity was a subjective spiritual relationship with God through the Christ. Scripture was an element preserved and coveted by a later church. The earliest manuscripts we have concerning the New Testament as we know it are papyri dating back to 3rd century that contain some of Paul's letters. The earliest complete work of the New Testament dates to 4th century with the Sinaian Uncial Script. This would account for the 90,000-100,000 variations in the content of the New Testament. So don't be to quick to throw away the spiritual significance of these gnostic texts. They are reflective of the new movement of spiritual thought. To better understand the gnostic mind I recomment those to read The Gnostic Religion, by Hans Jonas. Jonas is a German Scholar (which Germans tend to be the best scholars in this field due to their diligent research).
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266 of 278 people found the following review helpful By Tim Acheson on December 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
Ancient Gnostic texts reveal a long-forgotten form of relationship with between humanity and the divine, and a surprisingly unique perception of the divinity among these circles.
This book presents the latest translations of four texts from the Nag Hammadi library of Gnostic texts. The four texts chosen are classic Gnostic scriptures of particular importance to early Christianity. They are, "The Secret Book of James" (written by Jesus' brother), "The Gospel of Thomas" (the most prominent classic of Gnostic Christian spirituality, by Jesus' twin, Judas Thomas), "The Book of Thomas", and "The Secret Book of John" (by Jesus' disciple, John the fisherman).
Amazingly, each of these four authentic texts are specifically identified by the mysterious ancient authors, in the first verses, as containing secret information from Jesus Christ himself! These texts in particular make an essential contribution to our understanding of Gnosticism and its role in early stages of the development of Christianity, seeming to shed welcome new light on some previously uncertain aspects of the Christian religion.
We should be extremely grateful for the opportunity to read these fascinating documents, which were until recently all but lost forever. The Gnostic movement was systematically oppressed, and its legacy systematically destroyed, long ago by its powerful opponents. The Gnostics were triumphant in this epic story, because, in their wisdom, they deliberately sealed away their sacred knowledge to be re-discovered at a time in the distant future when they would be respected and appreciated. The Nag Hammadi library comprises 52 documents in 13 books, most of which were entirely unknown to until the Nag Hammadi artefacts were discovered.
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170 of 178 people found the following review helpful By Lawrance M. Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on April 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
In 1945 a couple of Egyptians digging in the Nile River valley found a sealed storage jar that contained a collection of fifty-two ancient manuscripts, most of which were devoted to the teachings of Gnosticism, early Christians who believed that matter is evil and that emancipation comes through "gnosis" (the Greek word for "knowledge"). The Gnostic inner quest for spiritual understanding put them at odds with the authority of the Church in the first, formative centuries of Christianity. It is not surprising that the Gnostic writings were suppressed by the early Church and were really only known to us through the writings of their opponents. The discovery of these manuscripts allows us to read what these early Christians were thinking and to judge for ourselves the value of their beliefs.
Marvin W. Meyer provides new English translations of four of the most important and revealing of these early Christian texts: the Secret Book of James, the Gospel of Thomas, the Book of Thomas, and the Secret Book of John. The Gospel of Thomas includes dozens of sayings of Jesus, such as Saying 75: "I am the light that is over all things. I am all: all came forth from me, and all attained to me. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Pick up a stone, and you will find me there." The Secret Book of John talks about the four principle demons of pleasure, desire, grief and fear. These are only two choice examples, but I think they provide an indication of what you will find in these writings. Meyer also includes detailed notes that offer specific textual comparisons between the Gnostic writings and the Gospels. These are primary documents from early Christians and should be appreciated as such.
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